Cincinnati Bearcats forward Titus Rubles (2) grabs the offensive rebound as South Florida Bulls center John Egbunu (5) defends during the second half at USF Sun Dome. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated the South Florida Bulls 61-54.
Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
While their respective records would point to a mismatch, Cincinnati was strongly challenged during its lengthy win streak earlier this month when it hosted Temple.
The American Athletic Conference-leading and 15th-ranked Bearcats will try to extend that run to 12 games in Sunday’s rematch with the last-place Owls.
Cincinnati (18-2, 7-0) has earned its 11 consecutive wins by an average of 14.3 points and pulled away in the second half of Thursday’s 69-51 victory over UCF. The Bearcats opened the second half on a 25-8 run and outscored the Knights 39-24 over the final 20 minutes.
They also held an opponent to less than 70 points for the 27th consecutive time – the longest active streak in Division I – and Sean Kilpatrick scored 19 to maintain his conference-best average of 18.6. Justin Jackson matched a career high with seven blocks and chipped in 12 points.
With the win, Cincinnati continued its best start since going 26-2 in 2001-02 and moved a step closer to matching its season-best 12 consecutive victories to begin last season. The Bearcats also moved one game ahead of No. 12 Louisville in the AAC.
They would appear to have a prime chance to tie that 12-game streak as they face the Owls, who are 0-7 this month and have dropped nine of 10. Temple, however, led 47-45 over the then-No. 19 Bearcats with 7:24 to play on Jan. 14 before suffering a 69-58 loss.
Kilpatrick, who matched season highs with six 3-pointers and 23 points, hit a pair of shots from beyond the arc to spark Cincinnati’s 12-0 game-breaking surge.
Temple (5-12, 0-6) followed with a 74-68 loss to La Salle on Jan. 18 at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia, then was blown out 90-66 at Connecticut on Tuesday. Will Cummings scored a team-best 20 points against the Huskies after missing two straight games with concussion-like symptoms, including the loss to Cincinnati.
The Owls have had three starters miss a combined 10 games during their seven consecutive losses, their longest skid since the 2000-01 season. They haven’t dropped eight in a row since an 11-game losing streak in 1975-76, and Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin is aware Temple will be desperate.
“Temple, obviously, needs a win badly. They have good players that can shoot the ball and a great coach. It’s not going to be easy.
-- Mick Cronin
"Temple, obviously, needs a win badly. They have good players that can shoot the ball and a great coach. It’s not going to be easy," he said.
Owls leading scorer Dalton Pepper (17.0 points per game) scored a team-best 21 in the loss to the Bearcats and Quenton DeCosey had 17. Pepper and DeCosey are among Temple’s four players who are averaging more than 14.0 points.
The Owls’ scoring average of 75.1 is in the top half of the AAC, but they’re allowing a conference-worst 76.2 points per game. Cincinnati is one of the nation’s leaders with 55.9 allowed per contest.
The Bearcats are making their first visit to Temple since an 88-72 loss Dec. 16, 1993. They’re 3-2 in road games in the series and have won 14 of 20 overall matchups.